Topic Tuesday: Recovery

HALT Ed and PTSD: Posttraumatic Solutions and Decisions”
(By: Jenni Schaefer)

If you’ve read my books, you know that I have a thing for acronyms. In eating disorder recovery, I named my illness “E.D.,” or simply Ed.

In 12-step meetings to break free from Ed, I learned other helpful acronyms—like my favorite, HALT.

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. My support team encouraged me to fix any of these situations before I made an important decision. In other words, I was encouraged to slow down, to halt.

Then, many years later, in PTSD recovery, another acronym came to life: Posttraumatic Solutions and Decisions

You might know that PTSD actually stands for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Well, this acronym had gained so much control over my life that I knew I needed to take it back, take the power out of it—spin PTSD into standing for something positive. The key part of my new PTSD acronym proved to be the last two letters: solutions and decisions.

In my experience with all types of recovery, finding real solutions and then firmly deciding to commit to them is what makes all of the difference. Written out here, this can seem so easy. And, Nike sure makes it sound simple. Find a solution and then just do it. Gulp.

First off, finding solutions can be challenging in this world of the Internet. Dr. Google promises quick and easy answers to nearly everything. How can we figure out which solutions actually deserve our time and attention? Fortunately, mental health research has taught us that “evidence-based” treatments are a smart way to begin. Evidence-based treatments are ones that have a lot of research supporting their effectiveness. Both of my recoveries were puzzles requiring evidence-based as well as alternative approaches. Gratefully, my treatment team, through trial and error, helped me to find all of the various jigsaw pieces.

What I have learned is that the fast and easy solutions often don’t work. As an example, an infomercial in the early 2000s promised that a certain exercise machine with a catchy name would bring body acceptance and love my way. Well, all that this machine brought my way was its handy use as a clothes-drying rack for my small apartment.

The point is: we must seek solutions that actually work, not the ones that promise a quick fix.

Secondly, after we work with our treatment team to find our unique recovery solutions, we must commit to real action. This means making a different kind of decision to get better. No matter what. Another gulp.

My approach to commitment in early recovery used to be this: I will definitely do __(insert solution A)____ when ______A________ becomes easy.

When eating is easy, I will eat.

In PTSD recovery, I will approach what I am afraid of—triggers related to my past trauma—when I am no longer scared.

I am sure you are not surprised that this kind of approach didn’t work either. In order to heal from both my eating disorder as well as PTSD, I had to make a decision to feel the fear and do it anyway. I know this sounds cliché, but clichés get popular for a reason. This one is true.

Often, in recovery, we reach a place where we know what we need to do but we just aren’t doing it. Getting better means being getting uncomfortable. That’s the bad news; the good news is that the discomfort doesn’t stay if we keep moving. Being uncomfortable actually pushes us into a place where we can experience serenity.

In what areas of your recovery do you still need to seek practical solutions?

In what areas of your recovery do you know the solution, but your decision to get better hasn’t been strong enough to actually follow through with positive action?

Does being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT) play a role in any of these hurdles?

Where do you need HELP to move in a new direction? Yes, in some 12-step rooms, that stands for Hope, Encouragement, Love and Patience. With these things, recovery really is possible.

YCDI. You Can Do It.

What acronyms do you find helpful in recovery? Do you need to make an acronym of your own?


About the Author

Jenni Schaefer is a bestselling author, popular speaker, and a National Recovery Advocate for Eating Recovery Center’s Family Institute.  In partnership with Insight Behavioral Health Centers (877-737-7391), Eating Recovery Center (877-957-6575) provides specialized treatment for eating disorders as well as related disorders, including PTSD.